Plume, the first of its kind, is a transgender-focused health technology company, and Solace, a free transgender mobile application available on Android and iOS, have partnered to make gender-affirming hormone therapy (GAHT) more accessible to the transgender community. Historically, many obstacles have prevented transgender individuals from accessing GAHT. Now in the wake of COVID-19, more obstacles have developed, making it even more difficult for transgender patients to get the necessary care they need.
Earlier this year, INSIDER Health reported that COVID-19 had left many transgender and non-binary individuals desperately seeking GAHT. “Transgender and non-binary people are turning to friends, community Facebook pages, and ‘grey market’ pharmacies to find hormones during the coronavirus pandemic,” added INSIDER Health. That said, the advent of a mobile app offering GAHT could not have come sooner.
Solace Executive Director and Co-founder Robbi Katherine Anthony (who prefers the acronym RKA) said transgender individuals have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and that she and the Solace team (the majority of whom are transgender) are glad they can help during this time of need. “We’re thankful that we can meet the moment and be here as a resource,” said RKA. “Everyone is dealing with hardships during COVID, and if you happen to be transgender, your hardships are multiplied.”
Launched on Dec. 31, 2019, Solace is a hub of resources and information to help transgender individuals reach different milestones as they navigate their way through the journey of transitioning. One big way the app helps those who are transgender is by providing a wealth of comprehensive information on a plethora of transgender-related topics from laws affecting transgender people to the requirements and processes of changing a gender marker to reflect an individual’s gender identity on different documents and identification cards.
Having experienced her struggles while transitioning, RKA said that she and Solace co-founder Patrick McHugh’s objective in developing the app was to help make the journey of transitioning as simple and as seamless as it could be. “We wanted to come up with something that would make life better,” said RKA.
The way the partnership is helping to provide GAHT to those in need is by integrating a direct link into the Solace mobile app to Plume’s website. Upon downloading the app, a user is prompted to enter some basic information and from there they begin mapping out their individual goals related to their transition. Individuals seeking GAHT will be directed to a link on Plume in the medical section of their goals under the GAHT/HRT tab.
Plume offers several comprehensive transgender healthcare services remotely. This allows users to have access to GAHT directly from their phone or device. Once users arrive at Plume, they begin the process of receiving GAHT by clicking on a tab located at the top of the page labeled “get started.” From there, users will be prompted to provide a few details about themselves, followed by instructions to download Plume’s secure communication app, Spruce. This app provides an outlet for communication with Plume’s clinic and is available 24/7.
Plume co-founder Dr. Jerrica Kirkley said an individual can begin the process of receiving GAHT fairly quickly, which is only one of the services included in Plume’s monthly membership.
“Within 20-30 minutes of landing on our website you can get an appointment with a provider,” said Kirkley. “In most cases, you can be seen within a few days to a week and it can usually be a pretty quick turnaround,” she added.
The cost for a monthly membership is $99 (plus the cost for prescriptions). The membership includes an initial evaluation upon signing up, labs, letters of support, supplies, progress monitoring and virtual access to care. Kirkley said that prescriptions are typically sent to the pharmacy to be picked up, but added that a new option for receiving medications is currently in the works. “We’re also rolling out a mail-order service from Plume so we can deliver medications directly to your house if that’s what a patient is wanting,” Kirkley said. “So within a week of someone landing on the website you could have a prescription for GAHT ready to be picked up at the pharmacy,” she added.
When Plume made its way to North Carolina earlier this year, Plume co-founders Kirkley and Dr. Matthew Wetschler, and Plume’s Head of Growth Soltan Bryce, said that being able to bring Plume to North Carolina (home to over 45,000 transgender individuals) was very meaningful to them because all three are from North Carolina and are alumni of the University of North Carolina. Plume is currently available in California, New York, Florida, Colorado, Texas, North Carolina, Virginia, Oregon, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Maine and Pennsylvania.
Bryce shared some feedback from a beneficiary of the Solace/Plume partnership expressing their appreciation and response to the collaborative efforts made on behalf of these two tech companies. “Thanks for the support and encouragement as always and congratulations on the partnership with Solace,” the beneficiary wrote in an email. “I am confident it will benefit your brand and our community.”